Investigators begin looking into data from Boeing 737 Max black box flight recorder after Ethiopia disaster

Alex Daniel
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A Director General of Civil Aviation (DG
The black box flight recorder, retrieved from the Boeing 737 Max 8 jet which crashed in Ethiopia on Sunday (Source: Getty)

Air safety investigators in France have begun studying information from the black boxes of a Boeing 737 Max plane that crashed in Ethiopia on Sunday, killing 157 people.

The incident has sparked a torrid week for Boeing, in which all major global aviation authorities banned its Max jets - its newest range - from their airspace.

Read more: Boeing planes will be grounded for 'weeks', according to US

Regulators around the world fear the crash could have been caused by a design flaw in the plane, after an identical model operated by Indonesia’s Lion Air also crashed in October, killing all 189 passengers and crew.

There has been no information yet to link the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines incidents, but Boeing’s market value has fallen billions of dollars this week as investors feared the worst.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday followed aviation authorities including Europe, Canada, China and Australia in banning the jet, prompting Boeing to pause deliveries of the model.

Possible links between the two disasters have sent shockwaves through the aviation industry, alarmed passengers and left the world’s biggest plane manufacturer scrambling to prove the safety of a lucrative Max range intended to be the industry standard for decades.

The black boxes, which include flight data and voice recordings from the plane’s cockpit, were handed to the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) on Thursday.

Pictures released by the agency showed the data recorder looking intact. But the voice recorder, which should have picked up the conversations between pilots and air traffic controllers, appeared damaged on one side.

Read more: Trump says the US will ground Boeing 737-Max 8 planes over safety concerns

US politicians said the Max 8 and 9 plane models will remain grounded for a minimum of “weeks,” as Boeing moves to test and install a software upgrade in all of the aircraft affected.

Democratic representative Rick Larsen said after a briefing with the Federal Aviation Administrator the software upgrade would take a few weeks to complete, and installing on all aircraft would take “at least through April.”